International Ice Hockey Federation

Asterix: The Hockey Way

Asterix: The Hockey Way

By Odin! Norsemen fearless – on and off the ice

Published 28.04.2017 08:02 GMT+2 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Asterix: The Hockey Way
Some Swedish greats, like Peter Forsberg, have battled as fearlessly as the Vikings in Asterix and the Normans. Photos: Editions Albert René, Jani Rajamaki / Europhoto
What do superstars like Borje Salming and Peter Forsberg have in common with the ferocious Vikings in Asterix and the Normans?

Leading up to the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, we’re dedicating one article to each day of the tournament, making a tongue-in-cheek comparison between an Asterix comic book and famous aspects of international hockey history.

In two-and-a-half weeks Viking neighbors Sweden and Denmark will battle on the ice. And in Asterix and the Normans, grizzled Vikings sail down to Gaul because they don’t know the meaning of fear. (They hope to discover it since they believe it’ll give them wings and enable them to fly.)

By Thor! This ludicrous premise calls to mind the bold Scandinavian hockey stars who have played as if they didn’t know the meaning of fear either!

Forget about Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Don Cherry’s allegations that Swedes are cowardly, or former Toronto owner Harold Ballard’s comment that 1970’s Leafs forward Inge Hammarstrom could go into the corner with a dozen eggs in his pocket and come out with none broken.

Instead, look at legendary Leafs defenceman Borje Salming. Not only did he pioneer the way for Europeans in the NHL in the 1970’s, but he played through pain. In a November 26, 1986 game versus Detroit, Gerard Gallant’s skate cut Salming’s face for nearly 250 stitches! But Salming continued to play pro till 1993 when he ended his career in Sweden!

How about Peter Forsberg? This IIHF Triple Gold Club member was scarier than Timandahaf, the Norman chief who attacks Asterix and his friends, even though Timandahaf had a bigger beard! Forsberg won two Olympic gold medals (1994, 2006), two World Championship gold medals (1992, 1998), and two Stanley Cups (1996, 2001). But it was the physical style of the Ornskoldsvik native that made him respected and feared!

Former Montreal Canadiens prospect Terry Ryan put it this way: “He’d go into the corner with Chuck Norris and a blindfold if it meant having a better chance to win the game, and he’d leave said corner using a toothpick and whistling a tune.”

Longtime Detroit Red Wings teammates Niklas Kronwall and Tomas Holmstrom won Olympic gold together in 2006. Kronwall, also named MVP and Best Defenceman during Sweden’s history-making double-gold win at the Worlds that year, has sent many opponents to Valhalla with his terrifying open-ice hits. In fact, he’s become a verb: “You got Kronwalled!” And Holmstrom played a fearless NHL game from 1996-97 to 2011-12. Arguably no player took more punishment from defencemen than this gap-toothed left wing, who always stood right in front of the net!

There are many ways to show toughness. The Sedin twins played fearlessly when they were airlifted in for Sweden’s gold medal run on home ice at the 2013 Worlds!

In the final in Stockholm, the new Swedish goal song, “En For Alla For En,” was music to Sweden’s ears. But that Poodles anthem was as scary for opposing Switzerland as the Gaulish bard Cacofonix’s horrible lyre-playing is for the Vikings!

“En For Alla For En” was played five times during Sweden’s 5-1 victory, which ended the 27-year Worlds “home ice curse.” Henrik Sedin made the tournament all-star team with nine points in just four games. (Unlike the Vikings, Tre Kronor didn’t party with apple brandy drunk from the skulls of their enemies, but they did put on golden helmets!)

Norwegian players have shown big-time guts too. Think of Mats Zuccarello, still starring with the New York Rangers after fracturing his skull on a slap shot by teammate Ryan McDonagh in the 2015 NHL playoffs. Or take former Philadelphia Flyers forward Patrick Thoresen, who infamously blocked a drive by Detroit’s Mike Green with his groin in the 2008 post-season! And Denmark’s Jannik Hansen has made a name for himself as an all-around talent after the Vancouver Canucks drafted him in the ninth round in 2004.

Can we expect an exciting showdown between Sweden and Denmark at the 2017 Worlds? No fear!

This is a 17-part series prior to the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, of which Asterix and Obelix are the official mascots. Click on News to find the stories.


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